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While this project may be pretty specific to me, I think the general idea could be easily applied to anything that you would like to automate! It’s really pretty simple, and the Arduino is a great platform for quickly prototyping.

In general, the code is much easier than you might expect too. The majority of it was copied in from examples sketches (the Arduino term for script) for the servos and keypad.  I just combined that code, and added a small amount of my own.

As far as power, I tried several different power supplies and ended up with a 9 volt 1.5 amp supply. The servos use enough power that the onboard 5 volt supply on the Arduino was not enough to power them.

Generally, it’s best to have a separate power supply for the servos, that has a common ground with the Arduino. This will eliminate the potential to overload the Arduino.

Several people have asked about the gates not being fully opened. This is mostly a condition of the gates themselves. The gate has a little dimple in it that stops it from being opened any further, so the “full” open is really about 3/4.


In case you want to make your own keypad -> servo system, you can download my Arduino sketch as a place to get started. You’ll also need to download and install the KeyPad library.

  • Gregg Vandenberg

    Thank you

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  • Rian

    On the brink of setting up my own dust collection system, and I felt like automating it would be too pricey and/or too technical, but after watching this I feel like I could probably handle it. Thanks, sir. Your vids are great; keep ’em coming.

    • Bob

      Thanks! That’s great to hear! Best of luck on it, and if I can answer any questions.. let me know!

  • Michael Chipser

    I would like to do this, but add zwave functionality to remove the keypad process… If I can detect when a tool has been powered on (GE Dimmer Autosense feature) then i can trigger events on the Arduino. i need to do more research but i think it can be done..

    • Yeah it definitely could! My system is currently evolving a bit, and hopefully I’ll eventually get it to a setup kind of like that. I have found that I use the floor sweeps a ton though, so they wouldn’t have a “powered on” state like that. They could also use proximity sensing or a simple button though. I’d love to see what you come up with!

      • Michael Chipser

        With the limited time i have spent on this, it appears someone has already gotten an Arduino plugin for the home automation controller i use.

        http://mysensors.org/build/vera

        So in theory.. Tool turns on, vera gets notified, apply power to dust collection, Arduino gets triggered for device #, opens blast gate… Tool turns off, Vera gets notified, dust collection turns off, Arduino closes all blast gates but the sweep.

        I guess i need to do some shopping..

        • Oh wow.. yeah, that looks cool! Thanks for sharing!

          • Darth Ruprecht

            If anyone does dive into this awesome idea I’d love to see it and the parts/sketch they use. My shop is ever-evolving and a fully automated dust collection system would be a dream!

  • Thomas Parson

    This is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen all week! Seriously good stuff. I do have one question:
    I do have a Festool CT vac and since it already senses when a tool turns on, how hard would that be to integrate into a setup like this? I haven’t ever played with electronics like this so I’m extremely green, but if I could start off with something like this in the garage when our house is finished being built that would be awesome!
    I’ll follow the link Michael left higher up and do my reading otherwise, just wanted to know if that built in feature would cause any benefits/issues.

  • I picked up the same servos as you, but I’m setting mine up to work with an IR Remote rather than a wired keypad. The problem I’ve run into is that the servos don’t have enough throw to open my blast gates, so I’m trying to figure out a way of solving that problem. I’m also using the 2-1/2″ plastic blast gates from Woodcraft. I can see you’re having the same issue as your gates are only opening half way (it’s not the gate design; your gate #2 opens half way, yet gate #3 opens nearly fully). I’m playing around with ideas involving using a lever on a pivot point to translate small movement from the servo into a much larger movement to open the gate.

    • Wendell Shank

      This is the same issue I was contemplating: to add more throw to the servo to make sure the blast gates are fully open. I’d like to add this to an upcoming dust collection project, but since I do primarrily woodturning, the coarser shavings will clog those half opened gates quicker than a floor drain in a barbershop.

      Would the servo still have enough umph to open a blast gate with a longer lever on the plastic arm? In other words, could you extend it with a popsicle stick sized lever or would the increased leverage kill the servo?

    • I ended up replacing my blast gates with aluminum ones which have MUCH less friction and open easier. This cuts the load on the servo. Also, can’t remember if I mentioed it in the video but I got the high torque servos. They’re still servos, so not incredibly strong but they’ve never had any trouble opening with auction applied.

      • I just got home from an excursion to Woodcraft to pick up a couple aluminum blast gates. You’re right… MUCH less friction. It still doesn’t solve the problem I spoke about with them not opening enough, but I do have a solution for that. While I was out, I picked up some brass bar that I’m going to use to create a longer servo arm. I’ll put something up when I’m done to show you and @wendellshank:disqus.

  • Craig Lindberg

    Cool video, is there any way to sense the current with the Arduino. I mean the power from the tool to open that gate, so I can just flip the switch and go? Kinda like the plug on my CT36 (Festool). Ultimately I want my Paulk Total WorkBench to integrate an automated blast gate system. Running 3 Ports is just too much, not enough dust collection.

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  • Andrew kelly, United Kingdom

    Hi I cant seem to get your code to run, it keeps on coming up with an error mesage

  • Jay

    Suggestion, Program KeyPad ‘0’ as system shutdown, and tie in a 5v Relay to replace the manual switch to the vac. So that any Gate Key opens the gate and turns on the VAC at the same time. And 0 would be the shutdown with a possible floor sweep open for the last moments of vacuum. Otherwise, cool project!

  • Josh Boaz

    So I’m just curious here. Now that it’s been almost a year since you posted this video, is this automated set up still working for you? And if so is it working well? Also have you had to make any improvements? I’m thinking about setting up one for my shop. Thanks

    • It did continue to work well as long as I used it, but a couple of months back I got a new table saw (with a 4″ outlet) and moved a bunch of stuff around, so I didn’t really need much of the system anymore.
      I Replaced it all with a Harbor Freight 2HP dust collector that connects directly to my table saw and bandsaw. I still have the shopvac underneath my table in the same place, but it’s hose just kind of acts as a general clean up tool now.
      If I ever move to a bigger shop, I’ll probably revisit the idea but scale everything up to 4″ because it did work well.

  • joakim

    Do you have a layout of the connections between the ardiuino and keypad?
    Doing the same ting only with led’s in my edroom,

  • Yannis

    Instead of keypad, why not automatisation where blastgate opens when machine is started.

  • Kieran Kammerer

    Does anybody know the exact type of servo used?

  • John

    The servos in the parts list are no longer manufactured. Can you recommend a similar high torque model?

  • Максим Котов

    How is the servo connected to the Arduino

  • David Bivins

    I had a question about some of your code. The keypad is not working properly. I was wondering why you used 2 different keypads in your sketch. I couldn’t get mine working, is there a certain order the pins go into the digital inputs? Also my servos go past 180 and I’m not sure if this is what is causing the problem but the servos will just continue to spin. Any help on the code would be great, I’ve been researching the Arduino forum and Github a lot and couldn’t really find anything about controlling servos with a keypad.